There by Christmas: Robust VPN keeps apparel maker ahead of the fashion curve

The apparel industry, perhaps more than any other, feels the need for speed when it comes to getting new products to market. “Speed is a core competency in the fashion business,” says Fernando Gonzalez, CIO of Byer California, a San Francisco-based manufacturer of clothing that appeals primarily to teenage girls. “In just weeks a new design can go from ‘hot’ to ‘not’, and slip from the full-price rack to the closeout discounter.”<br/>

12/08/2008



The apparel industry, perhaps more than any other, feels the need for speed when it comes to getting new products to market.



“Speed is a core competency in the fashion business,” says Fernando Gonzalez, CIO of Byer California , a San Francisco-based manufacturer of clothing that appeals primarily to teenage girls. “In just weeks a new design can go from‘hot’ to ‘not’, and slip from the full-price rack to the closeout discounter.” 



Consequently, Byer must be able to push information through its supply chain in rapid, reliable fashion.



Gonzalez says it has been able to do that since adopting a virtual private network (VPN) from AT&T . The network links the company’s headquarters, design centers, showrooms, and warehouses, enabling both its manufacturing and sales groups to respond nimbly to changes in customer demand.



As Gonzalez notes, it’s vital that Byer’s designers can work closely with both customers’ buyers and Byer’s own sales teams to create compelling designs attuned to the very latest trends. Intense collaboration is required among Byer teams scattered as widely as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and New York. Videoconferences held over the VPN are the norm, with cameras transmitting images of samples and fabrics as new designs are vetted.



Digital specifications are then dispatched, again over the VPN, to core teams of pattern makers and sewing machinists located in the company’s design centers—each center close to a warehouse that contains not only finished goods on route to customers, but stocks of raw materials.



“If it’s a rush job, we can go from a blouse design to a sample in four hours: for a dress sample, the turnaround is seven to eight hours,” says Gonzalez.




Byer California, a San Francisco-based manufacturer of clothing, uses a virtual private network to link headquarters, design centers, showrooms, and warehouses— enabling both its manufacturing and sales groups to respond nimbly to changes in customer demand.

The ability to place samples in customers’ hands at such short notice is turning out to be a competitive edge, he adds. “During Market Week in New York the big stores all come in to our office on 30th and Broadway. A customer might like a blouse sample, but feel it has too many ruffles. We can have a videoconference between New York and our designers in California, remake the garment, and ship it to New York for the following morning to see if this is what the customer wants.”



Rapid response also extends to the supply chain downstream from manufacturing. While Byer California retains a U.S.-based manufacturing operation that produces high-margin garments required in-store at relatively short notice—three weeks from design concept to store shelf, for instance—overseas factories are the main source of supply.



And for the overseas supply chain, agility is vital. Given the short shelf-life of Byer’s typical product, the usual game plan is to get a certain amount of product in the store, and then time the supply chain’s movement to pace of actual sales.



Point-of-sale data—some obtained digitally, some verbally via calls to stores—is used to fine-tune the precise rate of production and delivery of each product, thus saving Byer the markdown money that department stores receive for clothes that don’t sell at full retail price.



Just as critically, the same information can let the company see that sales are higher than expected, indicating the need to boost production while products are still in the higher-margin portion of their life cycle. In the case of unexpected material shortages, the VPN permits the use of video-conferencing, digital mock-ups, and quickly generated samples to model the effect of substitutions—a seven-inch zip fastener in place of an eight-inch fastener, for instance—until supplies of eight-inch zips are replenished.



“When I joined Byer, I was always fighting network failures,” recalls Gonzalez.

The AT&T MPLS-enabled IP VPN has not only put Byer’s core business on a firmer footing, he notes, but has added resiliency as well. Using the VPN, data is replicated at the data centers, which serve as backups for each other, and its “any-to-any” connectivity delivers the flexibility required for operations to substitute for each other in an emergency.





No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
World-class manufacturing: A recipe for success: Finding the right mix for a salad dressing line; 2015 Salary Survey: Manufacturing slump dims enthusiasm
2015 Top Plant: Phoenix Contact, Middletown, Pa.; 2015 Best Practices: Automation, Electrical Safety, Electrical Systems, Pneumatics, Material Handling, Mechanical Systems
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Getting ready for industrial IoT; Visualizing the (applied) automation continuum; Preventing VFD faults and failures; Using wireless for closed-loop applications
Migrating industrial networks; Tracking HMI advances; Making the right automation changes
Understanding transfer switch operation; Coordinating protective devices; Analyzing NEC 2014 changes; Cooling data centers

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.